If any Alaska legislator doubts the relationship between the University of Alaska and the state's economy, that legislator can be handed yet another example by visiting the Juneau campus.
The University of Alaska Southeast, in Juneau, is training people to work at the Kensington Mine, which at long last is moving toward opening next year now that years of legal holdups have been resolved. Sixteen students have enrolled in a five-week mining course that they hope to parlay into steady year-round jobs at the mine.
Alaska is all about resource development. And while mining, oil and gas production and commercial fishing are the mainstays of the state's economy, we must never forget our most cherished of resources - our people.
The University of Alaska must always play a central and expanding role in training Alaskans to develop Alaska's resources. How many times do we hear people complain about Outsiders coming up to work jobs in the Last Frontier?
If we're worried about that, then we need to invest as much as possible in our university system so it can train Alaskans for these good-paying jobs. And we need to not only train them but also go out and recruit them into the programs. Having Alaskans in these jobs keeps even more of that money in the state, which is yet another benefit to the economy.
Legislators and the governor must not lose sight of the importance of the University of Alaska to the state's future as they work on the budget when work gets under way again in the Capitol next month.